The Radiophonic Workshop: Burials In Several Earths

Burials In Several EarthsThe Radiophonic Workshop is back, minus the BBC. If the band’s retinue of veteran analog electronic music pioneers can keep turning out original material like this, it might result in a new generation of fans wondering why they were slumming it for the BBC for so long. The Radiophonic Workshop is made up of former members of the storied BBC Radiophonic Workshop, an experimental electronic music & effects department of the BBC founded in the late 1950s to provide unique music and sounds for the steadily growing output of the BBC’s radio and television channels. The work, in those days before samplers and digital synthesizers, was grueling; membership in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop was always fairly limited because you had to love what you were doing, working with oscillators a beat and tone generators and analog reverb and tape loops. The Workshop remains, perhaps unjustly, best known for the original Doctor Who theme music dating back to 1963, but its body of work spread so much further than that…until the BBC closed the Workshop’s doors in the 1990s.

But its members, it turns out, weren’t averse to workshopping their unique sound without Auntie Beeb paying the bills. Having spent over a decade as a touring group recreating their sound the old-fashioned way for audiences who already knew their work and audiences only just discovering them, the Radiophonic Workshop has now gifted us with a new album with the unmistakable sound that gained them a following in the 1960s and ’70s. Is it abstract? At times, yes – about 13 minutes into the lead track, you’d swear they were trying to make a musical instrument out of the sound of the Liberator’s teleport from Blake’s 7. Everything from white noise to whalesong crops up. But what’s amazing is how tuneful it is at times. Echoing piano is a constant presence, along with actual guitar work (Paddy Kingsland, whose Doctor Who and Hitchhiker’s Guide scores in the early ’80s were ear-wormingly hummable, take a bow). There are a few places where a groove emerges from the soundscape and the Radiophonic Workshop proceeds to rock out.

Not a bad feat considering that some of these gentlemen are past what many touring musicians would consider retirement age.

4 out of 4The real fascination of Burials In Several Earths is that it’s electronic music created in a way that has almost been lost to time and the march of technology. That description doesn’t really do it justice though – that sounds more like the description of a tech demo. The Radiophonic Workshop is making actual music this way, delighting audiences on stage, and bolting new chapters onto a legacy of ridiculously hummable short tunes from a bygone age. At times ethereal, at times exciting, the one thing Burials isn’t is boring.

Order this CD

  1. Burials In Several Earths (18:58)
  2. Things Buried In Water (22:01)
  3. Some Hope Of Land (25:15)
  4. Not Come To Light (3:58)
  5. The Stranger’s House (11:23)

Released by: Room 13
Release date: May 19, 2016
Total running time: 1:21:35

The Worlds Of Doctor Who

World of Doctor WhoThe last hurrah for Silva Screen’s license to release Doctor Who music on CD in the 1990s, Worlds Of Doctor Who largely consists of music you’ve heard before if you’ve heard the same label’s other Doctor Who output, give or take a surprise or two.

The album opens and closes with two new versions of the famous theme music, the “Lightning Version” at the beginning and the lively “Spoons Version” at the end. As you might’ve guessed, the latter rendition of the theme is practically built around a guest performance on the spoons by Sylvester McCoy himself; it’s an interesting novelty, right up there with Jon Pertwee’s “I Am The Doctor”, but not much more than that. Both of these new arrangements wouldn’t have been out of place on the Variations On A Theme EP.

After the “Lightning Version”, things proceed very much along the lines of Silva’s original Earthshock compilation CD, providing classic clips arranged more or less chronologically, starting with the original BBC 45 version of the 1960s theme tune and then going straight into the Dudley Simpson single “The World Of Doctor Who” (built around music from the 1971 Pertwee adventure The Mind Of Evil). Selections from The Sea Devils and several Tom Baker adventures follow, the latter material coming from Heathcliff Blair’s Pyramids Of Mars re-recordings of classic Simpson scores from that era. At least some canny choices were made here to present the most listenable and accessible material.

After the 1980 Doctor Who theme arranged by Peter Howell, we segue into the more modern, synth-heavy sound of the Davison era; again, the material heard here has been heard before (not just on previous Silva Doctor Who soundtrack compilations, but on the 1980s BBC LP releases that those compilations drew from). To vary things up a bit, material that isn’t necessarily strictly from Doctor Who begins sneaking into the playlist during the 80s section, including Mark Ayres’ theme for the Myth Makers interview videos. This material, too, has been presented before by Silva, on Ayres’ Myths And Other Legends solo release.

Things get a bit more interesting with the suites of Ayres’ music from the last two seasons of the original series. The material has been heard before, but here it’s edited into three eight-minute-or-longer suites (one each for The Greatest Show In The Galaxy, Ghost Light and The Curse Of Fenric) where, again, the best material is brought to the fore. Those three episode scores have also been released in their entirety by Silva, but Ayres picked out his own best material (and it has to be said that I agree with him just about 100% on the selections he made for the suites) and put it all into a single track per episode. No new interstitial material tries to introduce cohesion to the suites; there are stops, starts and pauses between individual cues, but nothing too jarring.

Things are capped off with the first CD release of Ayres’ “Return To Devils’ End” suite, composed for a documentary video of the same name which reunited the cast and crew of the Pertwee-era classic story The Daemons at the original shooting locations. A true Dudley Simpson afficionado, Ayres creates an even better homage to “the Simpson sound” here than Heathcliff Blair managed with the original Simpson sheet music. The “Spoons Version” of the theme music wraps things up.

3 out of 4If you’re wondering about the music from Shakedown: Return Of The Sontarans and Downtime, two of the better fan-produced video drama spinoffs of the 90s, both of those projects’ scores were released in their entirety on Silva CDs as well, but not until after this CD’s release.

It’s a nice sampler CD of Doctor Who soundtrack cues, with a smidgeon of new (but hardly canonical) material, so there are worse ways for Silva Screen to have closed out their Who catalog.

Order this CD

  1. Doctor Who (Lightning Version) (5:17)
  2. TARDIS – Doctor Who (2:37)
  3. The World Of Doctor Who (2:39)
  4. The Sea Devils (3:19)
  5. The Ark In Space (0:50)
  6. Pyramids Of Mars (3:59)
  7. The Brain Of Morbius (3:11)
  8. Doctor Who Theme: 1980-85 (2:37)
  9. Meglos (1:32)
  10. The Five Doctors (5:24)
  11. The Caves Of Androzani (6:07)
  12. Myth Makers Theme (2:11)
  13. Doctor Who (Terror Version) (4:16)
  14. Terror In Totters Lane (1:55)
  15. The Greatest Show In The Galaxy (8:31)
  16. Ghost Light (8:05)
  17. The Curse Of Fenric (8:57)
  18. Return To Devils’ End (2:51)
  19. Doctor Who (Spoon Version) (4:27)

Released by: Silva Screen
Release date: 1994
Total running time: 78:45

Doctor Who: The Five Doctors

Doctor Who: The Five Doctors soundtrackLike the simultaneously-released Earthshock collection, this album originally saw release in 1984 in the U.K. as an LP with the nondescript title Doctor Who – The Music 2, but in musical terms, this is a much better album. The music from eight 1983-1984 episodes from the sadly underrated Peter Davison era is arranged into several “suites” which lean much heavier on music than Earthshock‘s all-too-brief cues. And the music itself is composed in a much more straightforward fashion – still entirely electronic, but more conventionally orchestral in its overall execution. 4 out of 4This will appeal much more to casual fans who are perhaps not quite so ready to dive into the earlier, more experimental music on Earthshock.

  1. Doctor Who theme – 1980-1985 version (2:44)
  2. Enlightenment (7:54)
  3. The King’s Demons (5:21)
  4. Order this CD The Five Doctors (8:44)
  5. Warriors of the Deep (3:54)
  6. The Awakening (3:26)
  7. Resurrection of the Daleks (5:02)
  8. Planet of Fire (3:55)
  9. The Caves of Androzani (6:05)
  10. Doctor Who theme – reprise (0:54)

Released by: Silva Screen
Release date: 1991 (originally released in 1985)
Total running time: 47:59